The Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price is likely on the move by the trade deadline, regardless of how little he’d like to discuss that in the weeks ahead. As the best commodity on the starting pitching market (with Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee likely slotting in behind him, despite injury concerns), he’s bound to attract a wide range of suitors. Here are some of the more interesting conceivable landing spots.
Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers certainly have the need for Price in their rotation, but a couple of factors conspire to make any Price-to-Milwaukee deal difficult. First, the Brewers are already fielding their most expensive team ever, with their payroll breaking $100 million for the first time in franchise history this year, making it unclear whether or not there’s room left in the budget for the team to absorb the rest of Price’s $14 million salary this year. Second, the Brewers don’t actually have much of anything to trade the Rays in return. The best prospects in the system were all just taken in this year’s June draft and can’t yet be traded, and the best one outside of them is Jimmy Nelson, who scouts still see as having a middle-of-the-rotation ceiling and a likely future in the bullpen. The Brewers might be able to make a quantity-over-quality package for Price, but the Rays have never been ones to go for deals like that, especially not when they hold the commanding position in the market.
Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have the kind of player the Rays want back in outfielder Joc Pederson. Even if he is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Dodgers have nowhere to play Pederson everyday at the majors right now, and Los Angeles would likely have little problem absorbing the rest of Price’s salary. But the Dodgers don’t precisely need David Price, considering how well Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu have pitched this year. Price would immediately become the No. 4 (maybe No. 3) pitcher on that staff, and while it would turn the Dodgers rotation into something out of a videogame, it might not be the best use of the Dodgers’ trade assets.
Kansas City Royals. If the Royals wanted to double down on pitching and defense instead of buying bats — or in addition to buying bats, if they want to go really nuts — trading with the Rays again would probably relieve them of starting pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer and a couple of the other pieces in their minor league system. The only problem is that Zimmer is hurt at the moment, which makes him a bit of a harder sell in trade talks than Wil Myers was when Kansas City traded him and Jake Odorizzi to Tampa Bay for James Shields.
Cleveland Indians. The Indians absolutely need pitching not just to hang with Detroit and KC in the race for the Central, but for one of the two Wild Cards. They certainly have a player good enough to trade for Price in shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is projected to be a major league regular by next year. Giving up Lindor for a player who may command as much as $20 million next year in his last arbitration eligible season is a mighty big pill to swallow, however, as would giving up last year’s first-rounder Clint Frazier, and those are about the only two names worth mentioning in the system in connection with a David Price trade.
There are other teams that will be interested in acquiring pitching at the deadline as well, but three of the bigger ones — the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles — are all likely out of consideration due to playing in the same division as the Rays.